The major focus of the museum collections is to tell the stories of the Revolutionary War, especially its military events, through objects from the era. Works of art, both paintings and sculptures, illustrate the people and events of the war. Armaments and other military equipment provide a window into the life of an eighteenth-century soldier. And personal artifacts, like pocket watches, coins, and jewelry, provide reminders of the civilian lives the citizen-soldiers sacrificed to fight for independence. A particular emphasis is placed on objects owned by or related to officers who would become original members of the Society.
The collections also include commemorative objects, particularly from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that document how later generations interpreted the struggle for and achievement of American independence. The triumphant return visit of the marquis de Lafayette in 1824-1825 inspired the manufacture of a number of these goods, including commemorative medals, ceramics, and textiles.
American, British, and Continental paintings and sculptures bring alive the faces of the Revolutionary War. Most of these works depict officers who fought on the winning side of the conflict, but the collections also include likenesses of politicians and soldiers' family members. A particular strength of the collections is more than thirty portrait miniatures that reveal a more personal side of the war. Artists from Charles Willson Peale and John Trumbull to Ralph Earl and Samuel F. B. Morse are represented in the collections.
Swords, firearms, and accoutrements made in America and Europe during the era of the American Revolution represent the types of weapons that officers and enlisted men on all sides of the war used on the fields and seas. The core of the armament collection was donated by John Sanderson du Mont, a noted militaria collector and member of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. These artifacts include the British Brown Bess musket, a Pennsylvania long rifle, cavalry and sea service pistols, officers' small swords, powder horns, and bayonets. A highlight of the collections is two of the ten presentation swords voted by the Continental Congress to Revolutionary War heroes—those awarded to Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman and Lt. Col. Samuel Smith, both of Maryland.